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Bhoomi Devi — Our Sacred Goddess Mother Earth

Bhoo­mi Devi is our Sacred God­dess Moth­er Earth. She is the moth­er of every life that has ever tak­en birth from her and has lived upon her. Our Sanathana Dhar­ma pro­vides us with the spir­i­tu­al and philo­soph­i­cal tools for a deep eco­log­i­cal approach that acknowl­edges and wor­ships the insep­a­ra­ble nature of Divin­i­ty and Moth­er Nature. The epit­o­me of for­bear­ance, com­pas­sion, and patience, she holds us and car­ries our weight on our evo­lu­tion­ary jour­ney. The weight of our actions, both indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive, bear heav­i­ly upon our Moth­er. It is for this rea­son that we remind our­selves every day when we wake up and place our feet on her, with a prayer, seek­ing her for­give­ness:

समुद्रवसने देवि पर्वतस्तनमण्डले ।

विष्णुपत्नि नमस्तुभ्यं पादस्पर्शं क्षमस्वमे ॥

Oh Moth­er Earth, You Who have the Ocean as Your Gar­ments, and Moun­tains as Your Bosom, O Con­sort of Lord Vish­nu, Salu­ta­tions to You; Please For­give the touch of my feet on Earth, which is Your Holy Body.

Earth as a Superorganism:

Sci­en­tists did not shy away from the idea of view­ing the earth as a liv­ing enti­ty in the 1700s. James Hut­ton, known as the father of geol­o­gy is record­ed to have said at the Roy­al Soci­ety of Edin­burgh that he thought of Earth as a super­or­gan­ism and that its prop­er study would be by phys­i­ol­o­gy. Much like the human body and its var­i­ous sys­tems that work inter­de­pen­dent­ly, the Earth too func­tioned like a sin­gle organ­ism, he said. He ref­er­enced Harvey’s the­o­ries of cir­cu­la­tion of blood in our body and com­pared it to Earth’s nutri­ent cycles and water cycles.

The Gaia Hypothesis:

As sci­ence became more frag­ment­ed in its approach, this whole­some view of the earth did not pro­ceed into the sci­en­tif­ic thought of the next cen­tu­ry. In the 1970s, a British sci­en­tist named James Love­lock put forth a hypoth­e­sis that viewed the Earth as a sin­gle organ­ism and sug­gest­ed that liv­ing organ­isms on earth inter­act with their phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal sur­round­ings to form a syn­er­giz­ing and self-reg­u­lat­ing com­plex sys­tem that co-evolves life on Earth. He named it the Gaia Hypoth­e­sis — Gaia being the God­dess Moth­er Earth in Greek Mythol­o­gy and pop­u­lar­ized ‘geo­phys­i­ol­o­gy’. Accord­ing to Love­lock, the evo­lu­tion of Earth and the life forms on earth, was a tight­ly cou­pled process and not sep­a­rate par­al­lel process­es. The Earth’s hab­it­abil­i­ty, the glob­al tem­per­a­ture, its oxy­gen-rich atmos­phere, the ocean salin­i­ty, and its rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble cli­mate are main­tained in a state of home­osta­sis not just by abi­ot­ic process­es but reg­u­lat­ed by the beings on her and by Gaia her­self, as a super­or­gan­ism.

The hypoth­e­sis ini­tial­ly drew much crit­i­cism and ridicule, cit­ing lack of sci­en­tif­ic rigour and was accused of being the­o­log­i­cal and eso­teric. The hypoth­e­sis has now been rec­og­nized as ‘Gaia The­o­ry’ as it is sup­port­ed and backed by numer­ous sci­en­tif­ic exper­i­ments and the the­o­ry is being researched fur­ther in the mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary fields of Earth sci­ence, evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy, and bio­geo­chem­istry.

Human Body and the Earth System:

The Human Body can serve as a good mod­el for the Earth sys­tem. Both are liv­ing sys­tems, with phys­i­cal, chem­i­cal, and bio­log­i­cal inter­ac­tions hap­pen­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly.

  1. Both are made up of a huge per­cent­age of water.

  2. The Earth is home to mil­lions of diverse species and organ­isms and so is the human body. Our body is only 10% human and 90% micro­bial, as we have 9 times more micro­bial cells than human cells. We are all like walk­ing Earths in a way.

  3. A slight change in con­di­tions severe­ly affects both the sys­tems: Eg: If the body tem­per­a­ture goes just over a lit­tle high­er than 1°C, it leads to fever and high­er than 2°C would require med­ical atten­tion. In a large ecosys­tem like earth, 2°C might seem like an insignif­i­cant change. Research shows that even such a small change could lead to dire con­se­quences such as mas­sive glac­i­ers melt­ing, change in sea lev­el, and can kill mil­lions of organ­isms on land and in the ocean that are sen­si­tive to the slight­est change in tem­per­a­ture.

  4. The vast stretch­es of forests that facil­i­tate the exchange of Oxy­gen and Car­bon diox­ide are sim­i­lar to our lungs.

  5. Aer­i­al images of the riv­er sys­tems bear an unmis­tak­able sim­i­lar­i­ty to the veins in our body.

  6. The pro­duc­tion of high lev­els of tox­ins in our body is due to the pres­ence of chem­i­cals in the food we eat, clog chan­nels in our body much like how plas­tics made from petro­chem­i­cals clog rivers and oth­er water chan­nels.

References in the Puranas:

The ear­li­est sacred texts are galore with Hymns and Chants in praise of her!

She is the daugh­ter of Kaashya­pa Pra­jap­ati and is also known by the name Kaashyapi. Prithivi Mata (Moth­er Earth) is the divine con­sort of Dyaus Pita (Sky Father). They, the Sky and the Earth are togeth­er addressed in the Rig Veda as ‘Dyāvāprthivī’ and are par­ents of innu­mer­able beings as well as divine beings such as Indra, Usha, and Agni. The Rig Veda states that Dyaus impreg­nates Prthivi through rain lead­ing to the birth and growth of a wide vari­ety of flo­ra and fau­na. Dyaus is rep­re­sent­ed as a bull and Prithvi Mata as a cow and both play an impor­tant role in cre­ation.

In Puran­ic texts, the role of Dyaus dimin­ish­es with the emer­gence of oth­er ele­ments with spe­cif­ic func­tions and the nature of Prthivi also changes. Prithvi is men­tioned as Bhu­mi Devi and is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Moth­er Earth and the sym­bol of fer­til­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty. She is none oth­er than God­dess Lak­sh­mi and when­ev­er she is in need of help, her con­sort Lord Vish­nu comes down as an avatar to save her.

In the Satya Yuga: Varaha Avatar

Once, the pow­er­ful demon Hiranyak­sha reigned supreme over the entire world after obtain­ing sev­er­al boons from Lord Brah­ma. He tor­ments the Devas and all beings and they leave their heav­en­ly abodes and hide in the caves and moun­tains on Earth. Hiranyak­sha, whose giant body cov­ers all direc­tions, dis­lo­cates Bhu­mi Devi from her posi­tion in the orbit and sub­merges her into the Garb­ho­da­ka Ocean, caus­ing great suf­fer­ing for her and all beings sup­port­ed on her. Extreme­ly dis­tressed, she pleads to Lord Vish­nu for her res­cue, who incar­nates only under extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances for restor­ing Dhar­ma. Lord Vish­nu, assumes the form of a giant boar and dives into the cos­mic ocean, res­cu­ing and bring­ing Bhu­mi Devi out on his snout and pierc­ing Hiranyak­sha to his death.

There are two ways this sto­ry is looked at in-depth:

  1. The Earth orbits around the Sun, only under cer­tain care­ful­ly main­tained con­di­tions. If these con­di­tions are dis­turbed, the Earth may fall away from the orbit. The Puranas refer to the falling of the Earth into the Garb­ho­da­ka Ocean, which cov­ers half the Uni­verse. The word Hiranyak­sha means, one who has gold­en eyes. Hiranyak­sha was an exploiter of gold and ram­paged the Earth in his greed for wealth and gold. This led to the Earth los­ing her float­ing sta­ble con­di­tion and being pulled into the cos­mic ocean. Now, with mod­ern-day indus­tri­al­ized drilling of oil from under the ground, it makes us won­der if the oil lying down below serves more fun­da­men­tal pur­pos­es per­tain­ing to Earth sys­tem sta­bil­i­ty than just get­ting burnt by vehi­cles into atmos­pher­ic pol­lu­tants and con­vert­ed into plas­tics.

  2. Anoth­er way to look at the sto­ry is by acknowl­edg­ing the rela­tion­ship between Lord Vihnu’s Avatars and the The­o­ry of Evo­lu­tion. The first Avatar, Mat­sya Avatar was an aquat­ic being, a Fish and this was assumed when the land­mass on Earth was under­wa­ter. The sec­ond, Kur­ma Avatar was a tor­toise (amphib­ian that could live on land as well as in water) and this took place dur­ing the peri­od when there was lit­tle land­mass above the waters. Lord Vish­nu is said to have incar­nat­ed as a mighty Boar in the Vara­ha Avatar, as boar is the best crea­ture with the right fea­ture to work with slushy and mud­dy con­di­tions and cre­ate the right liv­ing con­di­tions on Earth by bring­ing her out of the waters.

Sita Maa — Daughter of the Earth

In the Tre­ta Yuga,

Sita Devi is cen­tral to the Ramayana as the wife of Lord Rama, the sev­enth Avatar of Lord Vish­nu. Sita Devi is found by the great King Jana­ka in the soil, while plow­ing the field. She is not born from a woman’s womb but is born out of Bhoo­mi Devi. Sita is the daugh­ter of Bhu­mi Devi as she is born from the womb of the earth her­self. Sita means fur­row, or the line made by the plow. King Jana­ka adopts her as his own daugh­ter and in a con­ver­sa­tion with Rishi Vish­wami­tra in the Bal­akan­da, refers to her as ayoni­jā — of non-uter­ine birth and Bhū­talāt utthitā — She who rose up from the sur­face of the Earth. After the bat­tle Sita, when asked to go on exile even after walk­ing through Agni Parik­sha as a test of her chasti­ty, is hurt and reminds Lord Rama “O know­er of vir­tu­ous con­duct! My birth was from Jana­ka in dis­guise; but was actu­al­ly from the earth. My sacred birth of such a high degree, was not hon­oured by you.” Lat­er on, Rama is reunit­ed with his sons Lava and Kusha and asks Sita to return back to Ayo­d­hya with him. Sita, hav­ing already been through cap­tiv­i­ty and a long peri­od of painful sep­a­ra­tion, wants to go back to her Moth­er, Bhu­mi Devi. With fold­ed palms, she requests her moth­er to take her back in and the earth opens up and takes her into her­self. This holy place is known as Sita Samahit Sthal is locat­ed in Uttar Pradesh between Praya­graj and Varanasi.

In the Mahabharatha:

In the Dwa­para Yuga, sev­er­al Asur­as were rul­ing on Earth, hav­ing tak­en birth as pow­er­ful Kings. Unable to bear the weight of their evil actions, Bhu­mi Devi pleads with Lord Vish­nu to relieve her from the immense pres­sure of the evil forces.

Insights from the Bhumi Sukta:

The Bhu­mi Suk­ta in the Athar­va Veda is one of the old­est hymns in Praise of Moth­er Earth.

1.Bhumi is sus­tained by Dhar­ma

What sus­tains the Earth? Satyam - Truth, Ritam - Cos­mic Law and pious actions, Ugra Deek­sha Tapah — Pas­sion­ate devo­tion and penance, Yaj­na - offer­ings are what holds the earth and sus­tain it.

2.Our rela­tion with Bhu­mi goes beyond a sin­gle life­time

She is the wit­ness of our Past, Present and Future. It is upon her that our great grand­par­ents and ances­tors lived and per­formed their actions.

3.She pro­vides us the plat­form to evolve and progress

Through her moun­tains, slopes, and plains, she pro­vides unim­ped­ed free­dom for the lakhs of species to grow and evolve.

4.Our lives are insep­a­ra­ble from Bhoo­mi Devi. She pro­vides us with every­thing for a healthy life

She bears many med­i­c­i­nal herbs and plants that are very potent and makes them avail­able for us to gain health. She is fer­til­i­ty per­son­i­fied and con­tains all Food and nutri­tion which we may obtain by plough­ing.

5.Bhumi Devi is beyond the phys­i­cal aspect

She is the invis­i­ble Shak­ti that pow­ers the Jada (non liv­ing) aspect and not just the phys­i­cal Earth. In her resides the four direc­tions of the world.

6. Names of Bhu­mi Devi and her qual­i­ties

Vish­wamb­hara (All-Bear­ing)

Vasud­haa (Pro­duc­er of all Wealth)

Pratishtha (Foun­da­tion on which we live)

7.Bhumi Devi car­ries Agni in her bel­ly

The fire at the core of the Earth, bears resem­blance to the diges­tive fire in our bel­ly.

King Prithu and the re-emergence of agriculture:

The Vish­nu Purana pro­vides an account of Bhu­mi Devi’s emer­gence. King Vena, who was the monarch rul­ing over Earth became wicked, cor­rupt, impi­ous and evil. Under the rule of such a king, the entire earth was thrown into a peri­od of dark­ness and despair. Moth­er Earth, who is only sus­tained by Truth, Right­eous­ness and Tapas, with­held her agri­cul­tur­al boun­ty and fer­til­i­ty, lead­ing to extreme famine and wide­spread hunger. The Rishis, beat Vena to death with blades of grass. With­out a king, the Earth steeped fur­ther into the dark­ness with ris­ing anar­chy and crime. The Rishis, rubbed the right arm of the corpse of the King with grass and from there arose the radi­at­ing and majes­tic form of Prithu. His sub­jects, after hav­ing suf­fered extreme hunger and star­va­tion rejoiced at his birth and plead­ed and yearned for edi­ble plants and food that the earth with­held. Prithu, with rag­ing anger, took his bow and vowed to slay earth and strip her resources. The earth assumed the form of a cow and fled. Prithu chased her all the way until Brah­malo­ka. She turned and warned the King of the grave con­se­quences of com­mit­ting a sin­ful act as the mur­der of a woman. The king pre­sent­ed his case of the plight of his starv­ing sub­jects and said that he was will­ing to com­mit this one act to secure the well being of his sub­jects. She then warns him that with­out her, the Earth would lose its abil­i­ty to sup­port and pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty and requests the King to give her a calf, for whom she could secrete her milk and asks him to lev­el all places for her milk to flow and restore the fer­til­i­ty and replen­ish the soil. Accord­ing­ly, Prithu uproot­ed moun­tains, cut across plateaus and plains and lev­eled, ploughed and land­scaped the whole Earth’s sur­face and received the milk. Before Prithu, peo­ple con­sumed roots and fruits grown with great dif­fi­cul­ty. He instruct­ed his peo­ple to set­tle around plains and work on the soil and grow food. Now, the Earth, brought to life with the life-giv­ing milk, pro­duced boun­ti­ful yields of crops, corn and veg­eta­bles.

Thus, by grant­i­ng life to Earth, Prithu became her father and she came to be known as Prithiví (the daugh­ter of Prithu).

In Ancient Civilizations around the world:

Source: Ref 14

The idea of Earth as Moth­er God­dess and a liv­ing enti­ty is as old as mankind, and ref­er­ences can be found in many ancient civ­i­liza­tions. The Greeks called her ‘Gaia’ - the pri­mor­dial moth­er earth god­dess and the source of all life. Romans called her ‘Ter­ra’. The indige­nous peo­ple of Andes called her ‘Pachama­ma’ — she is the Inca God of fer­til­i­ty and the world moth­er. Even today, peo­ple in Peru, before drink­ing chicha (a tra­di­tion­al corn bev­er­age), spill it on the ground and then con­sume it, as an offer­ing to Moth­er Earth.

Relevance today

Amidst ris­ing eco­log­i­cal cri­sis caused by greed-dri­ven, unde­terred and mind­less plun­der­ing of Earth’s pre­cious resources, the rev­er­en­tial atti­tude that our ances­tors dis­played towards Moth­er Earth and the restraint and cau­tion they prac­ticed in using her resources should become our guid­ing light. Moth­er Earth is as ancient as life itself, hav­ing with­stood extreme con­di­tions. Humans are a part of a much larg­er com­mu­ni­ty of species co-evolv­ing with each oth­er in the bosom of moth­er earth. She is indeed a wit­ness to our past, present, and future.

Some simple ways of connecting to the soil:

Walk­ing bare­foot on the ground

Farm­ing or gar­den­ing (work­ing with hands in the soil)

Com­post­ing (and meet­ing worms — soil’s friends)



[5] The Earth as God­dess Bhu Devi: Toward a the­o­ry of embed­ded ecol­o­gy in Folk Hin­duism

[9] Hiranyak­sha sto­ry Earth falling: Hin­duism and Ecol­o­gy: Seeds of Truth by Ran­chor Prime

[10]Theory of Evo­lu­tion — Vara­ha Purana by BK Chaturve­di


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